Guardians in the Wilderness: Joey & Shannon Hodgson's Journey as Remote Forest Fire Tower Lookouts


“You learn to live with less and in a way it’s almost like taking heavy stuff out of your backpack. You end up happier without all of those things.”
-Shannon Hodgson

“If your backpack is too heavy, you can’t get where you want to go.”
-Joey Hodgson

Going on 27 seasons this year, Joey and Shannon Hodgson are married soulmates that live and work as forest fire lookouts in both remote fire watch towers and urban fire watch towers alike. Following a near death experience in the infamous winter blizzard of 1996, which involved digging a snow cave to ride out the fierce storm while nearly succumbing to hypothermia, they managed to escape with only frostbite and decided to change their lives forever to pursue a life living off-grid in a tiny home office that sits on a peak at 5,900 feet in elevation…secluded in a thick blanket of timber and wildlife. Like many creatives, they are both artists and musicians (in fact, they created the soundtrack to this very video) who continue to explore life as an exciting adventure where they write their own story. In this episode, Joey and Shannon discuss everything from climate change to vulnerable personal reflections of intentionally pursuing an interesting and meaningful life in the wilderness instead of a path that convention had originally laid out for them.

Full episodes playlist:
Clips playlist:
Apple Podcasts:


******Section 1: Unplugged Life & Fire Watch Tower History
00:01:08 – Unplugged: Our Life Without Television
00:03:16 – PSA: The Importance of Preserving Fire Watch Towers: Beyond Fire Detection
00:03:34 – Exploring the History of Fire Watch Towers, built by the CCC

******Section 2: Introduction & Early Life
00:04:12 – Introductions
00:04:37 – Early Life: Shannon & Joey
00:07:33 – How current life choices heavily dictate our future
00:08:50 – Serendipity: How Shannon & Joey Met

******Section 3: Choosing the Fire Tower Life: Tales of Sacrifice & Surprising Realities
00:12:51 – Leaving a Successful Printing Career for Fire Tower Life
00:16:16 – Nurturing the Seed: How the Fire Tower Career Took Root
00:17:39 – Fire Watch Tower Realities: Outhouses, Low Pay, and Challenges
00:20:10 -Financial Concerns in the Low-Income Fire Tower Career

******Section 4: Fire Towers & Their Impact
00:21:58 – Fires and Their Impact: The Human vs. AI Debate
00:25:17 – Beyond Fire Detection: The Multifaceted Role of Fire Watch Towers
00:30:03 – Balancing Outreach & Preservation: The Double-Edged Sword
00:31:01 – Joey’s Vision for the Future of Fire Towers and Wildlife Preservation

******Section 5: Social Connections & Firefighting
00:33:45 – Breaking the Hermit/Recluse Stereotype: we’re social people
00:35:37 – Connections & Friendships: The True Wealth of Fire Tower Life
00:39:03 – A Fire family: Firefighters are a Close-Knit Community
00:40:49 – Man vs. Machine: The Role of AI and Cameras in Fire Watch
00:43:34 – The Importance of Community: Firefighters are Tight-Knit Crews
00:47:08 – Women in Forest Firefighting: Empowering a Diverse Workforce
00:49:39 – Physical Demands of Wildfire Firefighting: Athletes in Action

******Section 6: Remote Mountain Living & Embracing Alternative Lifestyles
00:51:07 – Battling Isolation: Thriving in Remote Mountain Living
00:52:16 – A snow cave saved our lives and changed the entire trajectory of our future
00:59:27 – Money and Adventure: Exploring Alternative Lifestyles
01:00:00 – How To Become A Fire Lookout
01:03:20 – Living Rich with Little: Embracing an Alternative Lifestyle
01:06:32 – Myth Busting Misconceptions About Our Alternative Lifestyle

******Section 7: Human Presence & Solving Climate Change
01:12:52 – AI vs. Human: The Value of Human Presence in Fire Towers
01:13:59 – Fire Watch Towers are the hallmark of American Cultural Heritage
01:14:42 – Sheep: Nature’s Unexpected Solution To Climate Change
01:17:37 – Forest Fire Destruction: Why Human Lookouts Matter

******Section 8: A Powerful Conclusion – Lessons for a Fulfilled Life
01:20:25 – Embracing Life to the Fullest: Lessons from Shannon & Joey
01:21:52- The Power of Positivity & Cultivating Happiness
01:22:43 – Model Positivity From People In YOUR Real Life
01:23:39 – Embracing the Process: The Value of Effort and Intentions
01:24:53 – Nurturing Your Soul: The Healing Power of Music and Art
01:31:00 – The Secret to a Fulfilling Life: Embracing Fun and Adventure
01:32:38 – Thriving with Less: Exploring Frugality and Minimalism
01:38:14 – Conclusion: Kindness, Inner Peace, and Embracing the Present

Music By: The Gross Tones (feat. Joey & Shannon Hodgson + their neighbor, Mike): [SoundCloud]

Photo credits: National Forest Service, National Parks Service


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